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Week 5 NFL Injury Report: Austin Ekeler Hits the IR

Nic Civale is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and former NCAA Division I athlete. This week’s NFL Injury Report focuses on fantasy-relevant players who are likely to miss multiple weeks, and how to handle their absences. A large part of roster strategy is knowing what to expect from your players, so let’s take a deep dive into this week’s most relevant long term injuries.

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Week 5 NFL Injury Report

Austin Ekeler, RB, LAC

Austin Ekeler left last week’s game with a serious hamstring injury and has been placed on the IR. After multiple diagnostic images and medical consults, it was found that the injury would not require surgery. Although that news is positive, the hamstring injury is serious enough that it will take an estimated 4-6 weeks of rehab for Ekeler to return to the field. In Ekeler’s Twitch broadcast, he casually noted that “some of my, uh, tendon ripped off of the bone.” Not good!

If the hamstring tendon does not require surgery but it is at least partially torn, it indicates the injury is probably very painful with every activation of the muscle. If you imagine a rubber band that is partially ripped on the side, you can now envision what Ekeler’s hamstring tendon likely looks like.

He also noted that he has a “Grade II” strain in his hamstring. This means that the muscle fibers have not fully ruptured, but there is moderate damage and swelling in the hamstring muscle tissue. With both the tendon and muscle experiencing pathologies, it is hard to imagine Austin Ekeler returning in the more optimistic, 4 weeks.

If he was dealing with just a hamstring strain or just a tendon tear, maybe 4 weeks is more attainable. But I fear Ekeler won’t be back in game shape until week 10 or later.

Regardless, Ekeler has the talent and opportunity to excuse burning a bench spot. Keep him on your bench if you don’t have an IR slot because he could lead you in a run through the playoffs.

Sam Darnold, QB, NYJ

Sam Darnold will be letting Joe Flacco take the wheel to the run-down car that is the New York Jets. Darnold has an AC joint injury. The Acromio-Clavicular (AC) joint allows the arm to rise smoothly overhead, but when injured, can be very painful and limiting. The injury seems to be very similar to Drew Lock’s, and he is possibly going to be out for 1-3 games.

If you do have Sam Darnold as your QB 1, this is a problem in many ways, but in all seriousness it is time to move on. I personally love Darnold’s potential, but it is such a hard task to overcome the Jets’ disfunction. Not much analysis to consider here; move on unless you have bench spots to burn.

Side Note: Darnold’s teammate, Le’Veon Bell is scheduled to return this week with Joe Flacco at the helm. This could be a fruitful play based on volume, but it depends how heavily the Jets plan on relying on him. After returning from a multi-week injury, I wouldn’t count on it.

Drew Lock, QB, DEN

As mentioned in previous articles, Drew Lock is working on an AC injury of his own. He has progressed nicely with rehab, but Head Coach, Vic Fangio, has been openly concerned with Lock’s ability to protect the shoulder. He pointed out that the initial injury was caused by Lock allowing his R shoulder to slam into the ground.

At this point Lock has not demonstrated 100% ability to throw, and has been limited in two consecutive practices. Lock is a speculative play for desperate managers if deemed active, but with a strong backfield, don’t expect a high number of passing attempts.

Noah Fant, TE, DEN

The Denver TE has had a nice season to this point in time, garnering league-wide attention. He’s hauling in just under 5 catches per game, has totaled 219 yards receiving and 2 TD’s. Fant is doubtful for Week 5 however, with a mild high-ankle sprain. The next man up is the man with the most appropriate name for a Tight End in league history; Jake Butt. the Broncos are a young team, and are already 3 games back of the super-powered Chiefs.

If they are smart, they will allow Fant to rest and fully recover. High-ankle sprains are very easy to re-aggravate and should be conservatively rehabbed. Fant is also 6’4″ and 250lbs, adding more strain to a weakened ankle joint. Fant is absolutely worth holding on to, but don’t expect him to be on the field this week for extended reps, or at all, in Week 5.

Thanks for reading! If you found this Week 5 NFL Injury Report helpful, you’ll definitely want to check out the rest of our Week 5 Fantasy Football lineup!

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